What Is Antisocial Personality Disorder?

What Is Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Personality disorders are a group of mental health conditions that affect how a person thinks, behaves, feels and interacts with other people. Around 9% of people suffer from some type of personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder — or ASPD — is one of the most widely talked-about types. You may have heard it referred to by one of the many antisocial disorder synonyms like sociopathy or a sociopathic personality. Read on to learn more about the disorder and find out what the DSM IV sociopath definition is.

What Is ASPD?

When you hear the term personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder may be one of the first types that come to mind because it’s often portrayed in television shows, movies and other media. ASPD is a personality disorder marked by a general disregard for other people and a lack of care about whether actions or words are right or wrong. Somewhere between 1% and 4% of the U.S. population has ASPD.

Symptoms of ASPD: The DSM IV Sociopath Definition

According to the DSM IV sociopath definition, a person can be diagnosed with ASPD if they’ve exhibited three or more of the following behaviors at age 15 years or older:

  • Not conforming with laws and repeatedly breaking them
  • History of lying and using aliases and other deceptive tactics to profit off others or simply for pleasure
  • Impulsiveness or repeatedly failing to plan ahead
  • Aggression and irritability that results in physical confrontations like assaults, domestic abuse or fights
  • Not caring about the safety of others or being willing to risk others’ safety
  • Being irresponsible about work and/or financial responsibilities
  • Not feeling remorse after wronging or hurting someone else

It’s important to note that people with other mental health disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may exhibit similar behaviors. The difference is that a person with ASPD shows these symptoms consistently, while people with other mental health conditions behave in this way only for short time periods during schizophrenic or bipolar episodes.

Distinguishing ASPD From Other Personality Disorders

Symptoms of ASPD are similar to those of some other personality disorders. For instance, a person with a narcissistic personality disorder may show a lack of compassion and exploit others, but they’re not necessarily deceitful or aggressive.

Someone with a borderline personality disorder may seek to manipulate others. However, their motive is usually to gain reassurance that the relationship is strong or to nurture or protect the other person. An individual with ASPD is more likely to practice manipulation for personal gain or amusement.

Causes and Risk Factors of ASPD

A combination of environment and genetics is likely the cause of ASPD. Some risk factors include:

  • Family history: People with close relatives who have ASPD are more likely to develop the condition.
  • Gender: ASPD occurs more frequently in men than in women.
  • Childhood trauma: Children who are subjected to neglect and emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse may be more likely to develop ASPD. A lack of stability or violence in the home may also raise the risk.
  • Substance abuse: Individuals who abuse drugs and alcohol at a younger age may be at a greater risk for developing ASPD.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options for ASPD

There’s no blood test or other diagnostic test to determine if someone has ASPD. Generally, mental health professionals diagnose ASPD by asking questions, gathering information about symptoms and reviewing details of patients’ personal and medical histories.

Individuals with ASPD usually don’t believe they need help. However, they may seek treatment for depression, anxiety or substance abuse issues that arise due to the disorder and end up being diagnosed. If they get arrested, people with ASPD may receive a diagnosis through dealing with the criminal justice system.

Once someone receives a diagnosis, treatment usually includes talk therapy. A mental health professional with knowledge of antisocial behavior and psychology can teach people with ASPD how to manage anger and interact with others around them more positively. Therapy can also help ASPD sufferers work through past traumas and see how their histories influence their behaviors, thoughts and feelings.

Talk therapy can be effective, but only if the individual with ASPD is able to be open and honest. Often, people with ASPD must face severe consequences for their behavior, like a long jail sentence, before they see a need for change.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any medications specifically for the treatment of ASPD. However, doctors may prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants like sertraline or fluoxetine for depression and anxiety that occurs with ASPD. In some cases, they may also put individuals with the condition on antipsychotic medications like risperidone or quetiapine to reduce aggressive behaviors. Anticonvulsants like carbamazepine and oxcarbazepine may be used to address impulsivity.

Impact of ASPD on Relationships, Work and Society

ASPD can have a devastating impact on the person who suffers from it, their loved ones and society as a whole. People with the condition may end up in jail for crimes they commit. Not only does this affect individuals with ASPD, but it can also place strains on their families and make their communities less safe.

Individuals may physically or emotionally abuse or neglect their spouses, children and other loved ones, destroying their relationships. Some may find it difficult to form relationships at all due to their behaviors.

Because ASPD can affect their work, people with the condition may struggle to hold a job and face financial difficulties as a result. Recklessness and impulsivity associated with the condition can also lead people to rack up debt. Risky behaviors may lead to an early death, especially one caused by violence.

Help Is Available for ASPD

Although ASPD can cause many problems for people with the condition, there’s hope for a better life. With treatment, it’s possible to reduce problematic behaviors and learn to interact with others in a more positive way. Restore offers a variety of treatment options for ASPD and other personality disorders, and our team is ready to assist you as you take the first step toward improving your life. Contact us today to learn more.